It’s May already! Here in Florida, the temperatures are reaching 90 on any given day, and everyone is beginning to break out those bikinis and pale, winter skin. In the next few months, I will be hitting the pavement with my surfboard, a cooler, and some good friends. From beach days to trips around the country, here is the road trip playlist that will guide them all.
Blaine the Mono Chats About Their New Album
When we naively started this website a few years ago, one of our first reviews was Vices And Verses from local Orlando rockers Blaine The Mono. Since that time, we’ve grown up a bit, and as we see on their excellent new album Jellyfish, this quartet is maturing into one hell of a band.
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On a chilly Florida night, I recently had the chance to sit down with this affable and talented group at Rock & Brews in Oviedo. Huddled around an outdoor heater, we sipped a drink or two, talked about music and life and then took a deep dive into the new album.
Today, I’ll share the early conversation, and provide a deeper look into “Capsize,” the first single and first track from the album, and then follow it up with a deep song-by-song look into the entire album on the day it is released in Orlando, February 28th. It should be a cool accompaniment for you as you take your first tour through the seven new rocking tracks. Make sure you Like our Facebook page so you don’t miss a thing.
We started out talking about the songwriting on the album. As it turns out, and as you’ll read in our track-by-track immersion, this is a true collaborative effort. Many of the songs start off with a riff from guitarist Eric Joseph. From there, they go through an evolution as all of the band members provide their input, before vocalist Randi Stickles polishes it off by penning the typically provocative lyrics, leaving all of the band members sharing songwriting credit.
We chatted for about an hour, and these four are all passionate about the excellent music that they’ve created, and it was nice to see the way they interacted. They like each other and truly seem to enjoy their time working together.
Cretin: So, we’re sitting here at Rock & Brews, where the walls are plastered with images of larger-than-life legendary rockers. Were any of these artists influences for you?
Eric Joseph – Guitar: Zeppelin, Stones and The Beatles, I really came up on The Beatles. I liked the 60s and 70s, and a lot of 50s stuff and the 90s obviously. But, I kind of skipped a lot of stuff in the 80’s, the New Wave rock.
Clifton Garner – Drums: Doors, Hendrix. For the 80’s, I only really liked the Cars, and somebody bought me a Warrant album once.
Randi Stickles – Vocals: (smiling) I really liked the Scooby Doo soundtrack in the 80’s. My dad listened to the Box Tops and stuff like that, but nothing that really stuck out; I listen to a lot of Nirvana and The Distillers.
Joseph: The Used, Deftones, The Yeah, Yeah Yeahs.
Stickles: Royal Blood is a new one I listen to a lot.
Cretin: That was one of our Top 5 albums of the year last year. (See our list here)
Stickles: They’re awesome.
Joseph: That’s a major break out band. Truly awesome.
Garner: When we went to South By (Southwest), they were all over the place. I think they played eight or nine shows in five days, it was great. I’ve got to throw Primus in there, because Irv is one of the greatest drummers. Everybody just thinks of Les Claypool, but in order to play with a bassist of that caliber, you have to be the greatest drummer in the world.
Cretin: Chris, what about you?
Chris Culverwell – Bass: Classic stuff? I’m a big Pink Floyd guy, Doors, Zeppelin, Hendrix. I’m the only Floyd fan here.
Stickles: That’s weird shit. I feel you need to be high, I don’t know.
Culverwell: (unfazed) As far as newer stuff, I’m a big Tool and Radiohead fan.
Joseph: (as “Somebody To Love” plays in the background) I’d like to add Queen to my list
Garner: Yeah, yeah.
Cretin: You guys need to go on-line and look at my Top 25 albums ever, a lot of these bands are included. There’s no Primus on there, though.
Stickles: (sarcastically) best drummer in the world.
Cretin: So switching over to your new album, Jellyfish, do any of you have a favorite song from the album?
Garner: “Get Me Right”
Stickles: Me too, that’s what I end up listening to the most.
Joseph: I listen to “The Slip” the most.
Culverwell: Probably “Blue.”
Stickles: I think “Get Me Right” is one of the newest, and it’s got more of that sing-songy feel which is why I like it.
Cretin: Thinking about your creative process, what was the first song you created for the album?
Garner: I think “Tides” was the oldest, then “Blue.”
Stickles: I just remember playing “Blue” around the time we were recording Vices (and Verses, their last album).” We were like “why don’t we add this?”
Joseph: I remember when we were recording Vices playing a scratch track for “Blue.” Yeah, so the first song we recorded is the last song on the album.
Cretin: Which was the last one you worked on?
Garner: “Get Me Right,” we recorded it on this last tour in the van. That one’s fresh.
Culverwell: The last one we perfected, though, was “You’re A Ghost.”
Garner: Yeah, that’s probably actually the oldest song. You wrote that before we started recording Vices.
Cretin: Which was the first you recorded for the album?
Joseph: “Blue.” We actually recorded them in alphabetical order, because that’s the way the engineer had created the session…
So, let’s begin our song-by-song voyage with “Capsize” (OK – I’ll stop the corny sea references)
Cretin: Why did you choose this one as the first track on the album?
Stickles: Crowd response. The best crowd response for our songs.
Joseph: We wrote it before we went on tour, and it wasn’t on that album we were touring for. In all of the cities we went to we got a really good crowd response. I think we all felt it was more upbeat – kind of dancy, punky, high energy. And, it just seemed to have that nice strong chorus. I was into a lot of Arctic Monkeys at the time and I thought I’d write an Arctic Monkeys song that’s not an Arctic Monkeys song. (We drifted off on a brief tangent about the Arctic Monkeys. I won’t cover the dialogue here, but it’s safe to say the band members are big fans)
Cretin: The opening guitar on this one does not sound like the Blaine The Mono I heard on the first album. What was the inspiration for that?
Joseph: Just something different. Going and performing at South By Southwest really opened my eyes. A lot of the riffs I wrote for Vices, I wrote before I even met Randi. It was a lot of music that Cliff, Chris and I had and then she filled in a lot of stuff and I really wanted to do some music that I felt was more the four of us at the time. That’s how the whole albums is. I just think this is what we actually sound like as a foursome.
Culverwell: Your songwriting changed a lot. He played in an old band before called Atrophy and everything had that grunge vibe to it, and it’s less of that now.
Garner: It’s more Alt now, and less grunge. I think there’s still plenty of metal influences, though.
Stickles: Especially in the breakdowns.
Cretin: I also thought it was a really good drum song.
Joseph: Oh, yeah, it totally is. Love the drums. Absolutely.
Garner: When he wrote that riff, the first thing I heard was Arctic Monkeys and I wanted to make sure we had a really dancy song that you hear that hear that opening and you immediately want to have fun with it.
Cretin: What about the lyrics? They actually confused me a bit.
Garner: She’ll do that.
Stickles: It’s kind of a one night stand perspective and then somebody taking it further than a one night stand and just becoming ridiculously obsessed with you and you have no idea why.
Joseph: I hate when that happens,
Garner: (chuckling) It happens all the time, right?
Stickles: It happens all the time. Something’s got me locked inside your head and you keep that person a secret because you don’t want other people to know how obsessed they are. It’s embarrassing.
Cretin: Do you want to reveal the person?
Stickles: No, no, I’m good.
Well, that’s it for now – a little sample from our walkthrough of the Jellyfish album. Check back soon as we take a similar walk through every song on the new album on February 28th, the date it is released in Orlando.
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The Best Rock Songs of 2013
(Make sure you check out our Top Rock Albums 0f 2013)
2013 was a year packed with interesting entertaining rock offerings. Most commercial radio seems fixated on synth-driven, watered-down, safe music for the masses. At times, I’m a sucker for that stuff, too, but far more often, I enjoy my rock with a little guitar, as you’ll see below…
Click on the sing titles to check out and grab your own copy of each song.
Bonus Track: Golden, Holly Maher – Our own BrokenBirdie sums this one up perfectly: This Nashville native “really knows how to mix sassy and sweet perfectly…” Maher is not an easy fit into our rock ‘n roll genre, but she’s a blossoming singer songwriter with lots of potential.
24. What Doesn’t Kill You – Jake Bugg – Garage rock 21st Century style. This 19 year-old has a great sound, sometimes punk, sometimes folksy, and this is the best offering from his second album.
23. Do I Wanna Know? – Arctic Monkeys – Really like the guitar intro on this one, and just love the focus on Alex Turner’s vocals, which are his best yet.
22. Safe and Sound – Capital Cities – An example of the synth and drum machine recipe that dominates today’s airwaves, but this one is creative and catchy.
21. Harlem – New Politics – A bit of a guilty pleasure. Bubble gum rock, but it’s got infectious lyrics and a memorable guitar riff that you’ll never get out of your head.
20. High School Lover – Cayucas – This one has a slick late 60′s surf rock feel which fits this band from Santa Monica perfectly.
19. Unbelievers – Vampire Weekend – It’s a great showcase for Ezra Koenig’s vocals, and unbelievably, this is actually the band’s highest charting song of their career.
18. 17 Crimes – AFI – This one is carried by Adam Carson’s drums. It’s got a great singalong chorus about a nasty topic. I should have moved this up to #17 just for the symmetry.
17. Recovery – Frank Turner – It’s fun catchy song with deep meaningful lyrics from one of today’s best rock ‘n roll poets from Tape Deck Heart, one of this year’s best albums.
16. Sweater Weather – The Neighbourhood – The first single off of their debut album I Love You and it was a breath of fresh air on the Alt-Rock scene. The first of two tracks from the West Coast band on the list.
15. Wake Me Up – Avicii – My wife rarely turns me on to excellent new rock, but this is an exception. This one makes a great driving song, but it’s excellent in any environment and crosses so many musical genres. Love the music bed…
14. Drive Me Home – The Reason – A big rocker from a veteran Canadian band who sound like Kings of Leon, just with a little more talent and a lot more passion and less pretentiousness.
13. Deal with the Devil – Pop Evil – Reminds me a bit of Alice and Chains which is always a good thing. Love Leigh Kakaty’s vocals, but the music from his band mates is even better.
12. Diane Young – Vampire Weekend – Bit of a different feel, where Koenig’s vocals highlight early; and then the song masterfully devolves into a clever mash-up of sounds eerily reminiscent of the late 80’s dance remixes from Sigue Sigue Sputnik.
11. Hail to the King – Avenged Sevenfold – Best hard rock band around, and this song is a prime example why. Searing guitar solos, hard driving rhythm and killer vocals.
10. Cut Me Some Slack – “Nirvana” featuring Paul McCartney – OK, I named the band… It’s Dave Grohl’s fantastic contribution to Sound City. Paul bringing back haunting “Helter Skelterish” vocals accompanied by the living members of Nirvana, and it works amazingly well.
10. Waves – Blondfire – It’s a great summer vibe, and a tune that highlights the beautiful vocals of Erica Driscoll and an absolutely mesmerizing groove.
9. Bit By Bit – Mother Mother – One of today’s most underrated bands, and this provocative quirky song is the best one from their fantastic album The Sticks. It’s aggressive Alt-rock with a unique blend of boy-girl vocals.
8. Lola Montez – Volbeat – Killer guitar work from new addition Rob Caggiano (Anthrax) and an excellent spotlight for Michael Poulsen’s powerful and distinctive vocals.
7. The Boys Are Back – Dropkick Murphys – Bagpipes and a rousing chorus power this rocker. Just love Ken Casey’s beautifully ragged and harsh vocals. It’s Irish rock at its best, well almost…
6. House of Gold – Twenty One Pilots – Ukelele driven ode to Tyler Glenn’s mother featuring his quirky but perfectly fitting vocals as this duo continues their ascension into rock stardom.
5. Rose Tattoo – Dropkick Murphys – This is Irish rock at its best. Tender mandolin opening with more of a classic Irish story teller vibe and a memorable chorus. They also released a version with Springsteen on vocals as a Boston Marathon victims’ fundraiser which is just as good as the original.
4. Thanksgiving – Stephen Kellogg – It’s a masterpiece, a ten minute masterpiece, but worth every second of it. Poignant, meaningful lyrics, passionate vocals and superb music. This one should become the definitive Thanksgiving song.
3. San Francisco – The Mowgli’s – A positive, happy, upbeat song, and it’s just fun as hell. This octet delivers a wall of sound, and the music is simply addictive. A great song made better by the great vibe.
2. Afraid – The Neighbourhood – Jesse Rutherford’s vulnerable vocals and deeply introspective lyrics are fantastic, and the song is absolutely great. It is the highlight track from the band’s excellent debut I Love You.
1. Four Simple Words – Frank Turner – This one starts with soft piano accompanied by acoustic guitar, then evolves into a raucous punk rock throwdown. It’s everything wonderful about rock ‘n roll wrapped up into one song. Oh, and the lyrics are perfect, too.
There you have it. My list… What did I miss? Let me know in he comments below, and make sure you Follow Us on Twitter and Like our Facebook for rock music updates all year long.
When I started this, I suspected that when we look back on 2011, we wouldn’t consider this an amazing year for music. Unlike the amazing contributions we heard both twenty and forty years ago, this year’s contributions seemed a bit more mediocre. Nonetheless, after digging through the candidates, it became clear there were a few future classics out there.
So, grab your favorite beverage, crank up the music and check out the RARA’s Farm Farmer’s Dozen, the Top 12 albums of 2011. Take a look and a listen, and let us know what you think:
Bonus Selection: The Last Royals EP (read the RARAs Farm review)
This eponymous debut from a talented band out of New York City was one of the best discoveries of 2011. Everyone knows their wildly popular “Crystal Vases,” but the rest of the EP is just as good, and quite diverse, especially for a four song sampler. These guys have a ton of potential; look for their first full length album, Twistification hitting the streets soon.
12. Angles, The Strokes
Returning after a five year respite, the lads from New York are back, and in great form. All of the classic garage sound we’ve come to love from the band, as well as some more modern stuff, and an occasional retro rock flashback – the result is a long overdue strong return. The first cut “Machu Pichu” is a great example of their newer sound.
11. White Rabbit, Egypt Central (read the RARAs Farm review)
The second album from this Memphis based quartet was one of the best hard rock offerings of the year. Kick Ass features a wide variety of polished powerful rock and has prompted well deserved airplay on stations like SiriusXM’s Octane. The title track is an excellent hard rock tune, while “Goodnight” spotlights more of the ballad side of their repertoire.
10. Move Like This, The Cars
These guys are back for the first time since the eighties. The only original member missing is the late Benjamin Orr who passed away ten years ago. The rest of the band sounds eerily similar to their trademark sound that made them New Wave royalty. It’s odd that so many other bands are tapping into that 80’s vein nowadays, but these true masters couldn’t get a sniff of airplay. Nonetheless, it’s a nice overlooked return effort.
9. Codes and Keys, Death Cab for Cutie
Benjamin Gibbard and Chris Walla took a new approach for Death Cab on this album, eschewing their previous guitar laden sound for more of a keyboard driven groove. It’s a refreshing change and makes the album more enjoyable than their previous six. “You Are a Tourist” and “Stay Young and Go Dancing” are prime examples of the excellent new sound.
8. Torches, Foster the People
A nice debut from the L.A. trio includes their huge breakout hit “Pumped Up Kicks.” Their sound is modern through and through and Mark Foster’s vocals truly unique. Admittedly there are a few weak tracks on the album, but the good far outweighs the bad. Make sure you check out “Helena Beat” and “Don’t Stop.”
7. Covering Ground, Chuck Ragan
The long-time punk rocker turned folk troubadour gifted us with this excellent collection of introspective songs early this year. His gravely voice is paired perfectly with the stripped down instruments: an acoustic guitar, a fiddle and a stand up bass. The songs reflect on a tough life on the road and the loved ones in his life. Grab a whiskey and give it a listen.
6. Suck It and See, The Arctic Monkeys
Album number four is the band’s best yet. It’s a different sound for the foursome, and a welcome change. “She’s Thunderstorms” is a great opening cut on an album packed with excellent tunes all the way through to the closer “That’s Where You Belong.” “Piledriver Waltz and “Black Treacle” are two of the stronger offerings. Listening to the band I’m reminded of a comfortable old favorite: Echo and the Bunnymen – good stuff!
5. Eureka, Mother Mother (read the RARAs Farm review)
In our album review, we described their unique sound as a diverse collection of alt-country-dance-funkadelic-harmonic rock. It’s impossible to classify their sound as anything but original; they sound like Mother Mother, period. Their sound is all their own, and it’s great stuff. The group revolves around the infectious harmonies of brother/sister combination Ryan and molly Guldemold. The Canadians really shine on “Baby Don’t Dance,” “The Stand” and “Chasing It Down.”
4. El Camino, The Black Keys
The Akron based duo broke through last year with the hugely popular album Brothers. This one might be even better. There’s a bit more commercial appeal to this one, and the songs will translate well into live versions on their forthcoming tour. It’s straight forward, stripped down raw rock and roll; sounds a bit like a modernized version of Bad Company, if you can imagine that. “Lonely Boy” is one of the best songs of the year, and has plenty of competition on the rest of the album. “Money Maker” and “Hell of a Season” are two other powerful tracks.
3. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Noel Gallagher and friends prove that there is life after Oasis for both brothers. Liam’s Beady Eye project was decent, but Noel’s new offering is great stuff. The talented guitarist penned all of these tunes and nails the vocals throughout. Some of the tunes will remind you of What’s The Story Morning Glory era Oasis (“Dream On” and “AKA What A Life”), which is a good thing, and all of them are well produced and written. Favorite track: “The Death of You and Me.”
2. Never Trust a Happy Song, Grouplove (read the RARAs Farm review)
A great collection of songs from this quintet who met by chance at an artists’ retreat in Crete a few summers ago. The band has put together a fantastic assortment of Alt Rock anthems. The feel of each song is distinctive yet they weave together nicely thanks to the consistent strong vocals from Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi. “Chloe” is the best cut on the album, but has plenty of company including “Colours,” “Lovely Cup,” and iPod favorite “Tongue Tied.”
1. Thank You Happy Birthday, Cage the Elephant
Fantastic album that also has a cool back story: The band basically had an album in the can ready to release when they realized no one was really passionate about what they recorded. They started over leveraging songs that the band members were planning to use for their own side projects. The result is a tremendous passion-filled trip from the opening notes of “Always Something” through all dozen tunes. “Around My Head,” “Aberdeen” and “Shake Me Down are already classics for the quintet from Kentucky. It’s only their second album, but these guys are key linchpins for the future of American Rock and Roll.
There you go, twelve great albums that will define 2011 music for years to come. Let us know what you think; what did we leave out? what doesn’t belong? And, if you want to take a trip down memory lane, check out how these discs compare with some classics: The Best of 1971 and The Best of 1991.
Rock On – Cretin